Rolled Pork Belly with Fennel, Parsley and Chestnuts by Scott Smith, Chef Patron at Fhior, Broughton Street, Edinburgh

This time of year is very important for me personally. It’s not just about relaxing and unwinding after the festive season, although I bloody love it, but more importantly it is about spending quality time with friends, family and loved ones. We have made a point of closing the restaurant over this period to allow time for this. In an industry that already suffers from long, anti-social hours, I think it is so important to protect this small, but much-needed respite.

As with most things for me, time with friends and family comes with food and drink, and plenty of it. My favourite way to do this is by having lots of dishes down the table and for everyone to get stuck in, sharing the food, wine and conversation.

I wanted to share a recipe with you today that doesn’t need to be followed in terms of flavours used, but it’s more of a technique for preparing and cooking a cheaper cut of meat. It’s a great way of using up leftovers in the fridge from the past couple of weeks’ festivities. You can use so many different flavour combinations and let your creativity flow; the only important thing to follow is the brining and the tying. The cooking itself is relatively easy and requires little effort, as all the work is done beforehand. However, the result is a wonderful, showstopping centrepiece for the table to celebrate the first week of the New Year and impress your guests. You can even finish it cold if you’re feeling fragile the following day.

Serves 6


For the pork belly:

½ pork belly, skin removed but kept aside

100g fennel bulb

25g flat leaf parsley

150g chestnuts, roasted and removed from shell

50ml rapeseed oil

30ml cider vinegar

2 cloves of garlic

Salt, to season

For the brine:

5 litres water

300g sea salt

150g sugar

2 pieces of star anise

1 piece of bay leaf

1 tsp fennel seeds


1. Start by making the brine. Add the water, salt and sugar to a saucepan and bring to a gradual boil.

2. Once all the salt and sugar has fully dissolved, remove the pan from the heat and add the remaining ingredients.

3. Allow this to fully cool and decant into a container large enough to hold the pork belly.

4. Start preparing the pork a day or two before you wish to serve. Trim the belly to remove any excess fat and butterfly cut the meat. Do this by running a very sharp knife from the centre of the belly to the outside, halving the thickness of the cut. Do this in both directions so that the meat opens like a book on both sides and the belly has now doubled in length but halved in thickness.

5. Submerge the meat in the brine and leave for 12 hours in the fridge.

6. While the meat is brining, you can make the filling - this is where you can be creative, trying different flavours to make your own version.

7. Add the chestnuts, fennel, oil, vinegar and a pinch of salt to a food processor and pulse until it begins to bind together.

8. Once the meat has brined, remove it and lay it out on a flat surface, flesh side (open face) facing up. Dab it dry with kitchen towel and then evenly spread the filling over the meat.

9. Now, starting at one end, begin to tightly role the meat up. Being careful that it is even and firmly rolled.

10. Now take the pork skin that was set aside and trim this so that it fits neatly around the outside in one layer.

11. Secure the pork using butcher twine by tying a slipknot at one end and looping the string all the down the pork and finishing this with another slipknot at the other. There are some great videos online to show you how to truss meat, or ask your butcher if they can show you.

12. Allow the pork to sit in the fridge uncovered for around 12 hours to dry out a little.

13. Set your oven to 140°C and bring the pork to room temperature. Score the skin lightly, then pour about 500ml of boiling water over the skin so it opens up a little and removes some fat. Season lightly with salt (remembering the meat has been brined – be careful not to use too much!)

14. Cook the pork in the oven for 2½ hours, then baste with the fat that has come out. Crank the oven up to 210°C and finish the pork for 30 minutes until the skin is a deep, golden brown, has puffed up and become very crispy.

15. Remove the pork from the oven and allow it to rest for at least 20 minutes. Serve with seasonal vegetables and roasting juices.